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Middle East Issues





Brookings Doha Gaza Analysis Tarnishes Brookings D.C.


Sultan Barakat, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and Senior Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, treats Hamas as a legitimate participant in Arab-Israeli diplomacy and hails Qatar as a fair mediator (“Why Qatar could be key to a Gaza ceasefire,” CNN, 7/24/14). He decries "the horrendous destruction visited upon the enclave [Gaza Strip] time and again by Israel’s armed forces, each time with relative impunity." But Barakat never mentions Hamas’ aggression against Israel, the thousands of mortar rocket attacks and dozens of infiltration tunnels into Israel.
 
Barakat claims that “while Hamas rejected the [ceasefire] agreement ‘in its current form,’ Cairo has shown seemingly little interest in genuinely appreciating Hamas’ take on the causes of the conflict or modifying the terms of the proposed ceasefire to address the longer term issues.” He does not explain how satisfying Hamas’ demands would resolve “long term issues” when Hamas’ ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel and genocide of world Jewry, as its “covenant” makes clear. This aim and the terrorist actions stemming from it, including the murders of hundreds of Israelis, most of them noncombatants, is why it is considered a terrorist group not only by Israel but also by the United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union. 
 
Doha is the capital of Qatar and Brookings’ Doha research director seems to be criticizing Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for its hostile attitude toward the terror organization. Barakat laments that “Hamas has been vilified in both official statements and public opinion, with its members banned from Egyptian soil, the Rafah border crossing between the two countries effectively shut, and hundreds of smuggling tunnels destroyed – blocking the supply of food, fuel, construction material and medicine along with weapons.”   
 
He promotes Qatar as “one of the few regional actors that have maintained strong ties (and perhaps influence over) Hamas’ leadership.” He acknowledges that Hamas’ chief Khaled Meshaal is based in Qatar, but does not say that he left Syria, where dictator Bashar al-Assad had given him shelter, after Hamas seemed to back Islamic extremists against Assad in Syria’s civil war. Nor does Barakat mention Washington’s displeasure at Qatar for funding Syrian extremists.
 
Scholarship suborned?
 
Brookings’ man in Doha claims that “Israeli air raids, rockets and artillery fire demolish entire neighborhoods in Gaza, and a ground invasion drives the death toll” higher. He does not point out that the current fighting began after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered, allegedly by Hamas members, and because the group intensified mortar and rocket fire at Israel during the search for the teens. Ultimately, two thirds of the country was under attack. This is comparable to approximately 200 million American living under the threat of rockets. Israeli air and ground attacks retaliated against Hamas aggression, though Barakat avoids dealing with cause-and-effect. 

Likewise, general conditions of Gaza that he laments were created after Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and drove out its Fatah movement partners in the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Not that Barakat acknowledges the fact, but the Gaza Strip under Hamas’ control became an anti-Israel terror base. This caused the Israeli blockade, although food, medicine, and fuel continued being shipped into the territory and Gazans by the thousands are allowed to enter Israel annually for medical care. 

Yet a post-Hamas Gaza Strip, potentially, peaceful, and prosperous, is not what Barakat proposes. He recommends that Qatar work as the main mediator in ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas, giving Hamas de facto equality with Israel. How objective could Qatar be when the sheikhdom itself is sponsoring Hamas, having replaced Iran in that role? (“Qatar invests in the West, and funds Hamas”, Ynet, July 29, 2014). Qatar vies with Iran in sponsoring terrorism and according to the BBC is hosting the Afghani Taliban, and funding Sunni extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

CNN’s posting says Barakat’s views are his own and not that of Brookings, a venerable center-left think tank on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., in downtown Washington. Perhaps not, but his argument promotes Qatar and whitewashes Hamas. Brookings headquarters may want to examine whether Barakat’s Brookings Doha connection casts a cloud over its own reputation.


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